Matt Lowe arrived about an hour early for his tee time at Southampton Golf Club, where he was among those playing in a local qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open. So what else would he and his dad do but ride through Shinnecock Hills, right next door. “We actually got lost,” he said, but added, “It looks pretty sweet.”
Lowe definitely found his way once he got in competition. And he moved a step closer to being able to play Shinnecock next month. The recent college graduate from Farmingdale shot 4-under-par 66 on Monday, the best score in the field, and advanced to the sectional qualifier in Summit, New Jersey June 4. The top qualifiers there get to go where Lowe went as a tourist.
“I’d really love to,” he said, indicating that he never has played there. “I’ve heard unbelievable things.”
Shinnecock lore added to the lure of the qualifier at Southampton Golf Club, an adjoining property. Tim Hegarty, a minitour pro from Briarcliff Manor who shot 67 and also moved on to the next round, had a choice to play in various local qualifiers. “I wanted to play here because it’s a (Seth) Raynor course, and because I wanted to see Shinnecock while I was playing,” he said.
Michael Furci of Sayville, who works at North Shore Country Club, was another of the five qualifiers Monday. The vantage point was not lost on him. He attended the 1995 Open at Shinnecock when he was five and went back in 2004.
“It’s awesome being next to Shinnecock. You can feel the energy right away. It’s definitely in your head,” Furci said. “It’s motivation and it’s pressure. If you’re going to play a U.S. Open this is the one you want to play. It would be unbelievable. That would be my first U.S. Open and the chance to do it here on Long Island, that would be incredible.”
Lowe made national news in 2009, when at 13, he was the youngest in the country to apply for the Open. He has tried every year ever since and five times has reached the sectional round. He has reason to hope that this will be the chance he makes it all the way.
For starters, he does not have to worry about schoolwork, having finished his final exam at the University of Richmond Friday. The former Nassau high school champion has a knack for coming up big, such as shooting a 61 in the final round to win the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Ike Championship last summer.
“It has been up and down but overall, I think my game is trending in the right direction,” he said.
Darin Goldstein, the 2016 Long Island Amateur champion, and Lucas Cromeenes, a pro from Illinois, also advanced with rounds of 69. (Mill River head pro Jason Caron tied them but had to get back to work and was unable to be in a playoff).
Goldstein, who has played Shinnecock once, found himself staring over there. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s the mecca of golf in this area.”